By Sherrie Clark
A goal of many 23-year-olds is to impress their bosses, but Amit Shah isn’t like most 23-year-olds…he’s always been the boss. In fact, he’s held the title of CEO even before graduating high school and is currently the Partner and CEO of Incipient Corporation based in New Jersey.
When reviewing his success, it’s difficult to remember that Shah’s only 23 because achievements like his require confidence, a mature focus, and passion. Now he’s got the world where he wants it and loving every minute of it. To him, running his own successful software company and carrying high-profile projects are the epitome of fun. After all, who doesn’t dream of owning his or her business and then have it grow and thrive?
Although Shah’s youthful looks can be misleading, he can teach a lot of people about what it takes to start a business and how to make it achieve success. He’s been at it for a while, ever since he was just 15. When most high school students were going to the movies, listening to the latest songs on their ear buds, and playing video games, Shah was in his bedroom creating a business.
He said, “When I started my company, I had zero dollars. I didn’t know what it took to get it started and that it took as much work as it did, which probably worked to my benefit. So, I didn’t have any fears. How can you fear something you don’t know exists?”
An Introduction to Computers and Business at a Young Age
For those who knew Shah as a child growing up in Fishkill, New York, concern ran strong. He said, “Both of my parents were extremely worried about my future because I really, and I mean really did poorly in school. My older sister and older cousins tried to convince me to get serious about school.”
Shah was never worried about his direction in life, though. All he knew was that he loved playing with computers. That was his favorite hobby and pastime and his definition of fun as far back as he can remember. As a young child, he would visit his dad’s hotel in upstate New York and play on the hotel’s computers, networks, and servers. If he didn’t know something or how to fix a potential computer problem, he’d go over the steps in his head. Then he’d call the computer’s tech support and ask them how things worked.
“When I was growing up, I think I spent more time on the phone with tech support than doing school work,” he said.
With a hero like Bill Gates, all he knew was that he had wanted to do something with computers, something on a conventional level, like an IT network specialist or computer tech.
He also found the behind-the-scenes activities of his dad’s hotel interesting. He observed his dad in the center of this whole organization with all of its different departments and angles. It’s what got him interested in business and was partly responsible for his growing technology and business mentality. However, never in his wildest dreams did he think he would own a successful evergreen company by the time he was a senior in college.
He said, “If it hadn’t been for me going to my dad’s hotel and seeing business in action, I don’t believe I would have started my own business.”
Mixing Business with…School
Obviously, Shah’s never taken the conventional pathway to success. While he was a full-time student at Manhattan’s Pace University, where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration, Entrepreneurship/Entrepreneurial Studies in May 2016, he was already putting those classes into action as the CEO of a AIT International located in downtown Manhattan.
“I didn’t respect traditional classes and professors,” said Shah. “Classes didn’t help put things into action; they only added stress, and running a business while attending classes fulltime wasn’t easy. There were days when I had to make a decision between going to class or a business meeting (and how I would explain that to my parents) or between creating a proposal or studying for an exam.”
While attending school, his activities didn’t go without being noticed by some very influential people. He received the “Youngest Entrepreneur in the School District” award while in high school and then while in college, he was selected as one of the recipients of the elite Forty Under Forty Award in Dutchess County, New York.
Paying It Forward
Still, he doesn’t let it all go to his head and seems to handle it all with ease. His calm, cool, and collected temperament keeps him grounded.
For instance, Shah doesn’t forget where he came from, preferring to stay humble and true to himself and incapable of seeing anyone as beneath him. These traits compel him to go out of his way to make everyone feel special. In fact, he truly enjoys paying it forward by helping others reach their destination, ensuring a team member is doing what he loves or creating something that will make life easier for his clients. It’s obvious that he sincerely cares for his employees as he takes time to ask them about their family and their weekend because he feels they all work together and on the same level.
He added, “I want to help them succeed, but I will crank out the whip if needed.”
Then in 2015, the business took a turn for the better. Shah had been wanting a partner who could be his right-hand man and help him grow the services division of his company. When childhood friend Bryan Weinert turned a client’s software product around and put it on track, Shah was impressed. He saw how Weinert could help him grow his business in an organized way instead of doing things “on the fly.”
“I became confident in Bryan’s abilities when I saw how he was able to make it through thick and thin, even without knowing his future with the company.” They later decided to combine Shah’s strategic and problem-solving skills with Weinert’s skills to form a power-packed partnership.
The Birth of Incipient Corporation
Then the duo wanted their company’s name to represent what they did, that no matter how big or small they were, a tremendous amount of work will always need to be done, that they will never arrive at their final destination, and that they will never have an end goal. The word “incipient” seemed appropriate because it meant starting or developing. So that same year in 2015, AIT International became the Incipient Corporation.
Shah’s refusal to fit the mold has been carried into his company. Incipient consists of both small- to medium-size and high-profile customers as well—an anomaly in the software world. The smaller customers keep the Incipient team on its feet and helps them stay innovative. Shah’s priority, however, remains steady—the success of his customers.
Undoubtedly, he knows what he’s doing, even at a young age, and undoubtedly, it’s working. Incipient has acquired customers globally. And undoubtedly, it’s been a lot of hard work and sacrifice, as any successful entrepreneur will tell you.
Shah said, “I get to build a business based on my passion and my hobby. More importantly, I get to make money doing what’s fun. After all, people need to be less serious and have some fun.
“I’ve had an immigrant mentality instilled in me throughout my childhood. Knowing that my father grew up with minimal resources, not always having enough food, makes me appreciative of the life I live. There’s a great correlation with living a great life and building a great business, and there’s an appreciation in building something with your hands. It’s about making it happen in a way that’s not original. Unconventional success is way more sexy.
“… But if there’s a finish line, what’s the fun in that? It’s like, ‘What’s next?'”
The Future of a Rising 23-Year-Old CEO
What’s next indeed? From all of the demonstrated success in Shah’s young life, that appears to be an open-ended question. Not for Shah. He states his plans with the confidence of a seasoned CEO. “I’m looking to grow my company substantially … From a strategic viewpoint, I want to be a tech company with one core that complements many verticals and manages 10 million things without doing 10 million things.”
And Shah believes in going beyond the business of business. “Once we achieve some major milestones, I’m going to invest in a promising foundation that I can guide to grow the family name and pay tribute to my grandparent’s memory. They were some the few who always believed in me; otherwise, I would be working an average job somewhere. When you’re young and driven, people will try to create roadblocks out of love. And then there are those who are envious, so it’s hard to keep your chin up in hard times. I will forever be grateful to my grandparents; they have shaped my life in a way that words can’t describe. My foundation will solve major challenges that people face every day and change the status quo.”
But for a guy who seems to be on top of the world, is there anything else he sees in his future that he still doesn’t have?
“Yes,” Shah said, “A billion-dollar company.”
And with that proclamation, he laughs with the youthful laugh of a 23-year-old.